Parshat Eikev 5774: The Eikev Mitzvot, Tefillot, Aleinu– Triggers for B’nei Yisrael’s Plea for the Ge’ula?

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua Eikev is being co-sponsored by Avraham & Elana Lewis and family of Ramat Beit Shemesh in honor of those who teach and give over Torah and to Kol Klal Yisrael , and by Yisroel & Miriam Schneider of Givat Shaul in Yerushalayim in honor of our Chayalim — may they remain safe, healthy and strong. To the Lewis and Schneider families, many thanks for your sponsorship and for your continued kindnesses.

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.

Please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3

Parshat Eikev 5774: The Eikev Mitzvot, Tefillot, Aleinu– Triggers for B’nei Yisrael’s Plea for the Ge’ula?

by Moshe Burt

Sefer Shem Mishmuel (by R’ Shmuel Bornstein, as translated by R’ Zvi Belovski, pages 386-387) renders translation of the opening posuk of Parsha Eikev:

“And it shall come to pass, if you listen to these mishpatim (ordinances) and you guard them and do them, that Hashem Ke’ilokecha will guard the convenant for you and the kindness which He swore to your forefathers.” (Sefer Devarim Perek 7, posuk 12)

Bearing this in mind, the Stone Chumash (Parshat Eikev pages 980-981) equates Eikev:

“you will hearken [listen]”: in midrashic terms as meaning the “heel”. That is being attentive to the little Mitzvot; the details, the Mitzvot that one tends to overlook, to ignore, to tread one’s heels on in life’s mad dash, but without which the Jewish people would lack the merit which sets us apart from common man.

The little mitzvot, the small details are the ones epitomized by V’Ahavtah L’re’echa Komocha — caring for, and attentiveness to your fellow Jew as for yourself.

Shem Mishmuel seems to express this Eikev as listening, guarding and doing the mishpatim (the laws). In turn, he equates listening with intellect, guarding with life’s emotions — with one’s heart, and doing with the bodily and physical performance of the Mitzvot.

Later in the Parsha, there are these posukim:

“For the land to which you come, to possess — is not like the land of Egypt from where you came…” (Sefer Devarim, Perek 11, posuk 10.)

“The land which you are crossing to occupy…. is therefore a land constantly under Hashem Keilokecha’s [Our Lord’s] scrutiny; the eyes of Hashem Keilokecha are on it at all times, from the beginning of the year until the end of the year.” (Sefer Devarim, Perek 11, posukim 11 & 12)

But Rabbi Zelig Pliskin cites in “Growth Through Torah” (pages 405-406) on our Parsha — Devarim, Perek 8, posuk 17:

“[Lest] you will say in your heart, My power and the strength of My hand did for me all of this success.”

R’ Pliskin says on the above posuk:

Don’t allow a feeling of righteousness to cause you to be conceited…. the Brisker Rav, Rabbi Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchik: …this verse also applies to someone who says, “It was due to my personal spiritual merits that we were victorious.” We should always realize that what the Almighty does for us is due to His kindnessand compassion and we should not feel that it is our own righteousness and merits that brought success.

R’ Pliskin, in citing the Brisker Rav, equates the above posuk and feelings of conceit over financial success or victory over an enemy in time of war. But one could question: could it be that conceit — engrained societal conceit has combined with, or is part and parcel of peer-group pressure — macho machismo regarding one’s way of tefillot which seemingly evolves and becomes learned, engrained and systemic from the years of Yeshiva katana and reinforced by macho speed competitions in Yeshiva high schools regarding a Ba’al Korea’s rendition of Chazarot HaShatz (repetition of Shemonah Essrei), leyning, reciting of Aliya brachot (blessings over the Torah), Aleinu and more?

This author previously blogged the following:

But isn’t today’s corrupt, evil and pretentious governance but a mirror reflection of us — our self-centeredness, our insensitivity, indifference and time-expediency. Just as our ancestors “fled from the mountain of G’d like a child running away from school”, don’t WE act the same way?

After a seemingly No-kavanah (no-thought, non-contemplative) break-neck repetition of Shemoneh Esrei, we have the unmitigated gall to blow through Aleinu at the speed of a 100plus mph Arnoldis Chapman fastball in a mad rush to say kaddish, and then flee out of Shul like a wild herd, like kids running from school lest they be piled with more lessons and homework? It often seems as if we treat tefillot, particularly the Aleinu prayer, lightly, as if they were small details in life’s rush, rather than as a thrice-daily major expression of dialogue with Hashem and a key to Hashem’s bringing about the Redemption of B’nei Yisrael.

Peer-group pressure, fear that their peers will look at them impatiently wondering “what’s taking so long?”, compells many to just want to be finished with tefillot, no matter the break-neck speed. Seemingly, not a mili-second of thought is given as to whether or not Hashem desires this type of tefillah and dialogue. And it is the same “system”, the same level of indifference and insincerity of intent which permiates the 30 – 45 second Aleinu — particularly the tendencies to either blow through Aleinu’s second paragraph at break-neck speed, or to blow it off altogether. And so the tefillah of Aleinu, having been blown through for generations in the mad-dash to be through with it, seems the paradigm Eikev Mitzvah. But more than that, is there not a certain arrogance, a certain disregard for one’s fellows: those who for deeper concentration and spiritual reasons, as well as for pronounciation purposes, i.e. they can’t make their mouths run miles a second, cannot finish Aleinu at break-neck speed? And what messages does break-neck speed send to Hashem? And, as this author has asked in the past; are we not disrespecting our brethren as well as showing Hashem insufficient honor and sincerity?

Aleinu L’Shabeiyach: The verbalization of OUR Chiyuv — our obligation as Jews to praise and glorify Hashem’s name. Aleinu is the most often said, the most repetitious and unchangeable tefillah, yet the least respected of all of our tefillot. Unfortunately, few of us even bother to take the time, with missile-launched vocalization of the tefillah, to even focus on the meanings of it: that Yehoshua davened it forwards, backwards, sideways through as the Jews encircled Yericho and the Shofars blew until Yericho’s walls fell in heaps.

Thinking back to last year, this author recalls a Shabbos Drash by Rav Chaim Zev Malinowitz, Shlita, just before Rosh Chodesh Menachem Av. In that Drash, R’ Malinowitz spoke out that we’ve got to feel the void of being without, and feel the need for the Beit HaMikdash. He suggested that we say and internalize daily the Parsha of The Tamid Offering. He equated The Tamid Offering with Sh’ma Yisrael. And he equated the second paragraph of Aleinu with the “Y’hei Sh’mei Rabbah…” — “May His great Name” of the Kaddish.

The Artscroll siddur (page 56 in Nusach Sefard edition) explains that:

“Y’hei Sh’mei Rabbah…” has an enormous cosmic effect…. Halacha states… respond[ing] to Kaddish takes precedence over… respond[ing] to any other prayer, even Kedusha or Borchu. (Mishne Breurah 56:6)

The Talmud (Shabbos 19) teaches that one must respond “Y’hei Sh’mei Rabbah…” with… his total concentration (Rashi, Tosafos)

And so, Rav Malinowitz equated the second paragraph of Aleinu: the “Al Kein N’kaveh L’cha” — which we learn was the prayer of Teshuvah uttered by Achan, who violated Hashem’s ban on taking spoils from Yericho [which were Holy to Hashem and were to go to the Mishkan Treasury (The Living Nach, Early Prophets, pages 17-18)], with the “Y’hei Sh’mei Rabbah…” of Kaddish with someone who acquired a property and enters the bank to apply for a loan to start up a business on the property. If the applicant has no formalized written business plan, only the spoken word with no facts and figures to back it up, he’s rejected out-of-hand. But with a formal business plan, architectural plans, etc, his loan request has a chance of being satisfied. Just an additional note here: We learn that three of the first four letters of the paragraph “Al Kein” — Ayin Khaf Nun — spell out Achan’s name.

It took a while for this author to understand the logic of a possible connection between “Y’hei Sh’mei Rabbah…” and the paragraph beginning “Al Kein N’kaveh L’cha”, but it would seem that “Y’hei Sh’mei Rabbah…” — “May His Great Name be blessed forever and ever” stands as the mission statement of the “business plan” of B’nei Yisrael, whereas the second paragraph of Aleinu: the “Al Kein N’kaveh L’cha” is the nuts and bolts, the details, the achitectural drawings, etc. of making the “business plan” a reality, making it happen. The second paragraph of Aleinu, rather than being an afterthought to be blown off or overlooked, ignored, mumbled and tread on with one’s heels, seems the justification behind B’nei Yisrael’s pleas to Hashem to bring us the Ge’ula Shlaima and to restore our Beit Hamikdash and the actualization of our Mishkan, our Menorah and our daily offerings.

Rabbi Asher Baruch Wegbreit, in sefer, “The Power of Aleinu”, based on Abudraham and which belongs being among the s’forim on the shelves of EVERY Orthodox Shul (even Chabad), goes further noting on Aleinu’s 2nd paragraph:

If we’re preoccupied with our daily concerns, apathetic to Hashem restoring His Divine Presence, and we mindlessly mumble words asking for the Redemption without meaning it, we will witness a “mundane” Redemption — i.e., through political and technological developments. But if we pray for the Redemption as is mentioned in our daily prayers, including Aleinu, with great fervor on a persistent basis, and if we put our emotions into them and actually, sincerely “hope to Hashem,” we can trigger an extremely miraculous Redemption — full of stunning events that will be far beyond those that took place during the Exodus from Egypt.

The geirush, the expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif 9 years ago seems but a paradigm representing the sum total of the comparable smaller evils coming from same place — self-centeredness, conceit, insensitivity, indifference — which were perpetrated Bein Adom L’Chaveiro — Jews against their fellow Jews, and indeed, evils Bein Adom L’Mokom (against Hashem) as well. Evils, such as the expulsion of our Jewish brethren from Gush Katif, or expelling male spouses from their homes and towns in Yehuda Shomron and banning them from returning to their families are attrocities perpetrated by the political rashayim (evil-doers) who exploit our self-centeredness, our penchant for divisiveness, sectorial rivalries, discord as well as insensitivity and indifference to our fellows in order to divide and conquer the masses that they govern.

And so, it stands repeating; Indeed! Is it any wonder why we get the governance that we have? Is it any wonder why we are all played off against each other — divide and conquer? Is our governance not a reflection of who we are? And one could ask: Has our abject failure with the Eikev Mitzvot held back the Ge’ula from us?

May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brethren Jonathan Pollard and Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!

Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.